Find out more about how CHILD studio and Music Declares Emergency have found inspiration in the BFI National Archive to create a stunning new film.
(Instruments of the Orchestra, BFI National Archive)
Maddy Read Clarke, from Music Declares Emergency, and founders of CHILD Studio Josh Renaut and Tayo Rapoport talked to composer Roma Yagnik about their short film No Music on a Dead Planet . This powerful new film shows the evolution of music through innovative use of footage from the BFI National Archive alongside an emotive soundtrack from electronic musician Leon Vynehall. Josh and Tayo produced and directed the film collectively, working to a brief from Music Declares Emergency. Read on for insights into how a collaborative short film project comes together, how archive film and contemporary music can be used to move and inspire, and what new filmmakers can do to make change for the better in their own work.
Music Declares Emergency is a group of artists, music industry professionals and organisations that stand together to declare a climate and ecological emergency and call for an immediate governmental response to protect all life on Earth. Maddy set up Music Declares Emergency with co-founder Fay Milton to work alongside Culture Declares Emergency, giving the music industry its own powerful platform in the fight against climate breakdown.
CHILD studio was born when Josh and Tayo collaborated on a project five years ago and realised they are both passionate about working with musicians and examining humanity's role within nature and sustainability.
Maddy, what made you decide to commission a short film and why CHILD studio?
We wanted an asset which can be shared by anyone to show the human connection with our environment, and film has a really crucial role to play in helping give oxygen to campaigns and bringing them to visual life. The message of “No music on a dead planet” really sums up what is at stake – almost everyone has a powerful connection with music, and CHILD put together a concept for the film showing the evolution of music through the use of archive footage that did an amazing job of interpreting the brief.
(One Foot in Eden, BFI National Archive)
Josh and Tayo, what made you want to be part of this?
Humanity and nature are becoming disconnected, and we need to bring them back again or we're going to lose everything. Music and film have the incredible potential to provoke emotion – this can be a powerful tool when you’re looking to engage people with climate activism and connect people with the natural world. We wanted to depict the journey of music through time and settled on a mixed format, archive-based film to tell the story.
How did the BFI National Archive become involved and what has that process been like?
Maddy: The BFI already had a great relationship with Culture Declares Emergency and were happy to come on board offering us access to everything they could from the archive. They really have been amazing.
Josh and Tayo: Having access to the archive material has taken us in different directions, and right from the start we could tell it would inspire us in ways we hadn't considered.
Can you explain how the process of selecting Leon's track and incorporating it into the film alongside sound design worked?
Josh and Tayo: We were really happy to have Leon Vynehall on board for the project. His track ‘From the Sea / It Looms (Chapters I & II)’ really helped to drive the narrative arc that we were creating for the film: starting slow and orchestral to capture the beauty of the natural world, then building towards something much more urgent, impactful and electronic to reflect the damaging effects of the industrialised earth.
Where will people be able to see No Music on a Dead Planet?
Maddy: The film will be shown on live music stages, at festivals, cinemas and potentially at galleries – we are also exploring the idea of an exhibition of the Music Declares Emergency T-shirt art and have been working with Rankin on a shoot. The film premiered at All Points East on all stages, which was incredible, and it has also been seen by audiences at Reading Festival and Climate Music Blowout, where we showed it immediately before the headline act. The audience were in awe, and it was really special. People were actually filming it and sharing it as they watched.
Josh and Tayo: BFI are also continuing to be involved to look at ways of sharing the film, and at some stage there will be an online release. We hope to see it tour with artists too, and being part of their shows.
(Grove Carnival 1981, BFI National Archive)
How can filmmakers engage, and what can they do to ensure their work has as little negative impact on our planet as possible?
Josh and Tayo: As individuals we can all support campaigns like this and sign petitions, and there are a number of things filmmakers can do on set and off. Some examples are using LED lights, banning plastic bottles on set, providing recycling facilities, organising catering which doesn't include meat, sharing kit and achieving carbon neutral status using one of the services available, such as BAFTA albert.
Maddy: Filmmakers can share the film when it is available as well as sign up to Music Declares Emergency and Culture Declares Emergency.
I also recommend filmmakers check out If Not Us Then Who?, an initiative that highlights the role indigenous and local peoples play in protecting our planet, working in partnership with communities to make films, take photographs, curate content, commission local artists and host events.
Find out more about Music Declares Emergency (and if you are a musician, how to sign the Declaration) and CHILD studio here.
Filmmakers can declare their recognition of the climate and ecological emergency through Culture Declares Emergency here.
Roma Yagnik is a composer working across film, television, theatre and events. Her diverse client and placement list includes Sky, HBO, BBC, C5, Hulu, 20th Century digital studios, National Geographic, PLAN International, Tottenham Hotspur, Greenwich + Docklands International Festival and Tate Britain as well as some of the brightest independent film talent around. She is a member of the Alliance for Women Film Composers, Ivors Academy and BAFTA Crew. Recent film work includes US documentary feature No One Told me, Victoria Adeola Thomas' A Birthday Party and a notable placement on HBO's Mare of Easttown.